The Right Time to Wave the White Flag / by Gavin Lau

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The Leadership Insiders network is an online community where the most thoughtful and influential people in business contribute answers to timely questions about careers and leadership. Today’s answer to the question, “How can you find inspiration if you’re feeling unmotivated?” is written by Emily Borders, co-founder and principal of Highwire Public Relations.

Energy, creativity, and motivation are finite resources. But as an entrepreneur working in a client service business, I need to bring enthusiasm to the table in pretty much every situation. Here are a few ways I find motivation when it just isn’t coming naturally:


Plan around your energy cycles

Energy and inspiration come to different people at different times of the day. Some people are night owls and others are early birds — I’m neither. My prime creative and motivated timeframe is between about 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. Since I know this is when I’m at my best, I try to schedule brainstorming, strategy, planning, and writing sessions in this timeframe. Typically I save the less-energized, post-4 p.m. slot for getting organized for the next day or administrative tasks that may not require as much brainpower.

When I am struggling over a project or important decision in the evening, I punt until the next morning when I’m able to bring a new perspective or know exactly what to do. Recently I was struggling through the development of a creative campaign late into the night. I finally admitted defeat and put a hold on my calendar for the next day during the magic 9 a.m. hour to dive back in. I reviewed the campaign with fresh eyes and made significant improvements.


Talk to inspirational people

Another great way to get motivated is to engage with people you find inspiring. A big part of my job is talking to CEOs and founders to help them tell their stories. Passion and creativity are truly contagious, so I prioritize conversations with entrepreneurs (whether they are clients or not) to understand what inspires them and then help them craft that into a great story.

I recently spent time with the team at La Cocina, an organization dedicated to helping women from all economic backgrounds build businesses around delicious food. Learning more about the tenacity and resourcefulness of these entrepreneurs and the dedication of the La Cocina team supporting them gave me a shot of inspiration to continue to build our own business.


Read, read, read

One of my favorite and most energizing pastimes has always been reading, from the classics and sci-fi to mystery novels and Jane Austen’s work. It’s a great way to enter a completely different world and come back with a new perspective. I notice a marked difference between my mental energy after short-form reading — such as news articles, blogs, and tweets — and long-form reading — such as novels and non-fiction books. Digging into a novel sparks my imagination and gives my brain time to explore new themes and ideas. But since having young children to chase after has significantly cut back on my reading time, I’ve shifted from reading to listening to books. This gives me a great way to delve into the story when I just can’t find the time to read an entire book.


Get moving

Nothing is better for releasing endorphins than a good workout. I’ve recently joined ClassPass, which enables me to switch up my routine and keep my workouts from feeling like another mundane task. I’m able to test out a variety of classes and fit them into my schedule. The endorphins brought on by cardio exercise not only help me to feel energized and motivated throughout the day, but also help focus my mind. Because working out is one of the few activities that forces you to unplug and focus on just one thing, my mind feels refreshed after an intense workout. I feel less stressed and better able to concentrate on important projects.

And when all else fails to get me inspired: coffee.